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As business grows, it may get away from constraints of spreadsheets and move into databases
Question:
We use a spreadsheet to keep track of each employee and his or her holidays, personal, vacation and sick days. As the number of employees has grown, modifying or creating reports is a time consuming process and it has started to “crash” periodically without warning.
Our spreadsheet creator said we can improve the situation by modifying some of the original “code” or we could replace the spreadsheet with a database.
Can the existing data be “transferred” to the database easily or will it have to be retyped? Is it worth giving up the spreadsheet that we have spent time on and can fix to meet our present needs?
Answer:
Spreadsheets have always been the right tool for the analysis of data. They are particularly well suited to scientific, engineering, and financial applications where intricate mathematical calculations and precision are required. Lists of data can be sorted and filtered based on specific sets of criteria, or easily displayed in a variety of graphs.
While this enhanced functionality and ease of use has a tremendous upside, it also creates an interesting dilemma. Spreadsheets inherently are not designed for the management of large sets of data. Or to put it another way, spreadsheets can be an adequate tool for the management of simple lists, but they fundamentally are not designed to process large amounts of data.
Enter the true “database” program which specifically is geared toward storing large amounts of data, quickly retrieving information, and producing reports as needed. Databases tend to be less intuitive and more complicated to use and implement than spreadsheets. Moreover, the benefits of a database program may never be realized if not properly designed and implemented.
Consequently, the decision to implement a database often leads to the need for training, outside consultants and ongoing administration requirements, which can increase significantly the costs of the application.
Generally it is not a problem to transfer existing spreadsheet data into a new database. However the degree of difficulty will vary depending on the complexity of the original spreadsheet, and may not be easily accomplished without outside expertise.
It may be cheaper to modify the existing spreadsheet to meet your present needs. However, that may only be a “stop-gap” solution, and it’s likely that you will need to revisit the issue each time your requirements expand. From that standpoint, it’s better to look at a longer-term database solution now so you can meet your current needs and be confident it will accommodate future growth.
Question:
How much space does a single packet occupy on a LAN cable?
Answer:
All of it, and then some. Bits are tiny, aren’t they? There is an inversely proportional relationship of frequency to wavelength based on the speed that the information flows down the wire. That is represented by the formula: C = fw , where C=the speed of light, f=frequency and w=wavelength.
Bps (Bits Per Second) translates fairly directly to Hz (Hertz or Cycles Per Second). There are exceptions to that in data communications, but for this exercise it works well. The speed of light is 300 million meters per second, but in copper cabling the velocity of propagation is roughly 80% of the speed of light, so actually we will work with 300,000,000 * .80 = 240,000,000 for our speed. Finally, w (wavelength) will indicate the length in meters of a single bit on the cable.
Let’s do some math. We’ll use 10baseT, common Ethernet at 10Mbps.
C=fw can be expressed as w=C/f, so let’s plug in what we know:
W=240,000,000 m/s / 10,000,000Hz
W=24m (about 80 feet/bit) That’s a big bit.
Multiply the minimum 64k packet (512 bits) times that 80 feet and you get whopper 40,960 foot long packet. Imagine a 1,518k packet (the maximum) being 121,440 feet long. Obviously either of these is longer than the 328 foot limit for copper 10baseT cabling, so the beginning of the packet reaches its destination long before the last bit has left the source. So watch out for those packets, it seems you should only need to give them an inch, but they take a mile.
Question:
What is Java?
Answer:
Java is an object-oriented programing language made by Sun Microsystems. It was designed so that its users can build small “applets” (tiny Java programs that execute small functions that until now were obtained only as part of larger applications). Java was developed specifically for use on the Internet, although it also is being used as a general purpose programing language in other areas. Sun Microsystems claims that no Java program on the Internet can penetrate the rest of your computer. The reason why Sun can make that statement is due to the limited file-read and writing capabilities over the Internet. The main drawback with Java is for people who use old browsers. Many old browsers do not know how to process the Java script. Therefore, any enhancements that you have created on your Web page using Java cannot be seen by those users.
Tech Q&A is provided by EntrÃ&Copy; of Brookfield. Small Business Times readers with questions can contact EntrÃ&Copy; at 414-938-2139 x3022, or via e-mail at dschm@pcsentre.com.

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